In its latest trading statement for the 13 weeks to 26 December, taken in the so-called “golden quarter” of trading, Marks & Spencer saw clothing and home revenue decrease by 25.1% year-on-year to £787m.
That reflected the Lockdown 2 forced closures of non-essential retail – from 5 November to 1 December in England – and other varying tiered Covid-19 restrictions throughout the period.
Total Q3 revenue was down 8.2%, however, the retailer said it had “continued robust trading performance in the face of volatile Covid headwinds.”
While in-store sales declined by 46.5%, that was partially off-set by strong clothing and home online sales growth of 47.5% to £353m in the period. The sales mix remained heavily biased to Covid-influenced product such as sleepwear and leisurewear.
M&S CEO Steve Rowe, said: “Given the on-off restrictions and distortions in demand patterns our trading was robust over the Christmas period. More importantly, beneath the Covid clouds we saw a very strong performance from the food business including Ocado Retail and a further acceleration of clothing and home online.
“Near term trading remains very challenging but we are continuing to accelerate change under our ‘Never the Same Again’ programme to ensure the business emerges from the pandemic in very different shape.”
During the period many blanket promotions were removed, and the ratio of full price sales improved with full price sales declining a more modest -4.8% and online orders more than doubling. As a result, the stock position as M&S entered the latest lockdown was strong.
International revenue fell 10.4% to £239m, impacted by changing coronavirus restrictions.
Rowe also warned that, despite the UK signing a free trade agreement with the EU, new rules and regulations are set to “significantly impact” its overseas ventures in Ireland, the Czech Republic and France, although he insisted the company is “actively working to mitigate” the issues.
Earlier this week is was revealed that M&S was close to securing a deal to buy the Jaeger brand from the distressed Edinburgh Woollen Mill Group.